The college basketball season is very much a marathon as opposed to a sprint. This is what the Cleveland State Vikings men’s basketball team needs to tell themselves in the wake of their loss at the hands of the Oakland Golden Grizzlies 70-65 in front of a large crowd at The Wolstein Center. With the victory over the Vikings in Cleveland, the Grizzlies hold a one game lead over CSU in the Horizon League standings after the two teams were victorious on Saturday afternoon. Cleveland State was able to rebound from their defeat with an exhilarating win over Detroit Mercy 72-70. With that being said, here are a few takeaways from Cleveland State’s 1-1 week of play.
Free throws continue to be an Achilles heel for Cleveland State, and if the problem continues to linger it could hinder the Vikings’ ability to repeat as conference champions. While CSU only had two players attempt a foul shot against Oakland, they shot a combined 4-12 good enough for only 33%. In the win over Detroit Mercy, Cleveland State shot 9-17 in free attempts, barely over 50%. Leaving eight points per game at the foul line is oftentimes the difference between winning and losing against upper echelon competition, and the Vikings absolutely must improve in this area in order to reach their goals this season.
Expect to continue to see multiple primary ball handlers running the Cleveland State offense as both Torrey Patton and Tre Gomillion have started to contribute more in this way without Craig Beaudion available. Patton specifically has shouldered more of a playmaking load in the last few games, as his vision and overall floor game continues to improve. In the showdown versus Oakland, Patton compiled seven assists while he dished out another seven on Saturday versus UDM. Cleveland State continues to be efficient in their assist to field goal ratio, however turnovers reared their ugly head on Saturday as the Vikes coughed it up 18 times over the course of the game versus the Titans. Turnovers combined with missed foul shots oftentimes results in a loss, which makes CSU’s grind out win over Detroit all the more impressive.
Cleveland State played extremely well in spurts on Saturday, but Dennis Gates did not receive a complete 40 minute performance against Antoine Davis and company. Davis was spectacular, as the leading scorer in school history poured in 35 points on 12-19 shooting from the field. Slowing down Davis might have been an impossible task on Sunday, but the Vikings still found a way late with the help of a game clinching D’Moi Hodge steal and pair of foul shots.
Saturday’s game was another example of pulling a game out when you are not playing your best. Despite the missed free throws and turnovers, the Vikings were still able to come out victorious. CSU still has plenty of time to clean up the mistakes made in the Oakland and Detroit games, as they do not see the Golden Grizzlies or Titans again until the very end of the regular season. With CSU having almost a full week before their next game, they will have ample practice time to clean up some of the miscues that took place in their last two contests.
One final takeaway is that senior transfer from Florida State Nate Jack may have won himself some hard earned minutes with his shooting performance on Saturday against the Titans. Jack came in off the bench and converted on four three pointers in 13 minutes of action. With the bench rotation in somewhat of a state of flux as Broc Finsteun has struggled mightily the last few times out, Jack could see the floor more in the future as hit outside shooting is something the Vikings could use to help space the floor for Torrey Patton and Tre Gomillion. Dennis Gates’ relationship with Jack goes back to his own days at Florida State.
Cleveland State’s next set of games takes place this weekend in another pair of home contests. Friday night the Vikings will due battle with Youngstown State while on Sunday they take on Robert Morris. Tip off for those games are 7pm and 3pm respectively.